A little bubbly city



Oh ye little city of warmth

Your beauty did you from me first hide

Behind your hilly shadow

That first greets every novel eye


Behind your hilly curvature

And the soothing breeze

Hides in waiting

The best of nature’s gifts!


In your bosom

Lies the thrill of splendour

And scenic beasts

That roam the wild

Yet close to humans

In harmony reside


In your bosom

Did I behold a priceless gem

Whose dazzle, like a diamond

Hypnotised me

Opening dreams of possibilities



Pardon me little bubbly city

For shall I not think of you

Without in better measure,

Thinking of the jewel

That illuminates your brow





The Presence of Absence




What day
Is it today?

Answer me
For you’ll still be

What day
Is it today?
It’s ma’s day
The tenth of May

Did you say
The tenth of May?
Why, it’s Mother’s Day!

Did you speak?
Or will this madness peak?

Give me a new line
I still have mine
I want to call you
Will someone put me through?

I can see you
Please let me through
Your world of silence
Your silent presence
Your present absence

Your absent smile
That I craved for a while
As you peacefully lay
In the morgue this day
A month before May
I’ll keep at bay

Beautiful Ma
It’s your day
Smile again today
Like you did that day
In the month of December!
That smile, Ma,
I love to remember
In this presence, Ma, of your absence

Msiwatenge, msiwatese, wawezeshe

A poem in Kiswahili, addressed to men, to mark the end of the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women and World Poetry Day

respect women

Mwajidai nguvu mnazo, mwawatenga na majukumu

Mwadhani hawana uwezo, mwajilimbikizia utaalamu

Hamwoni lolote tatizo, mkiwabagua kila sehemu

Badilisheni yenu mawazo, akina mama muwaheshimu


Akina mama muwaheshimu, wapeni yao thamana

Waachieni nafasi muhimu, wapate na wao kufana

Uongozini wasiwe adimu, hakuweka hivyo Rabana

Acheni wenu udhalimu, wenu ubabe hauna maana


Wenu ubabe hauna maana, madhara yake tumeyaona

Kupenda vita na kupigana, hamwoni aibu kuuana

Ubinadamu hamnao tena, uhai mmeutoa thamana

Na mnapozidi kuzozana, mateso ni watoto na mama


Mateso ni watoto na mama, dunia yetu yaangamia

Mwawabaka hamna heshima, wamechoka kuvumilia

Rejesheni akili mapema, waepusheni na kuumia

Kuwawezesha ni kitu cha wema, wenu uovu muuacheni


Wenu uovu muuacheni, watoto mimba kuwatunga

Watakiwa wawe shuleni, siyo ndoa za kijinga

Hizo tamaa mziacheni, na ukatili kuupinga

Akina mama muwaenzini, msiwatenge msiwatese

It’s been more than 10 years since I last wrote a poem in Kiswahili, and I’m glad this day inspired me to come up with these lines. When, in the morning, the Kiswahili Unit of the UN Radio asked if I had any poem in Kiswahili (they know I’ve been writing poems in English), I realised all the poems I had written in the past were political and thus, inappropriate. I had almost given up doing anything for them, but I got my inspiration, somehow, and it took me just about 45 minutes to write this poem. It was rather difficult, considering the style in Kiswahili is a bit different from the English poetry I’ve been accustomed to over the years. Where iambic pentametre would give a poem in English its rhythm, in Kiswahili, that only does half the job in a line. My attempt to get an exact metrical symmetry also proved a tough task, and you will notice that some lines don’t really have ten syllables on either side of the break. Still, I enjoyed writing it, and I’ll be writing some more poems in Kiswahili from now on.

Of Human Rights, Science and Politics

Warning: the article you are about to read might be illegal- at least as far as the new law in Uganda is concerned


I will start with the basis of President Museveni’s signing of the Anti-homosexuality bill into law, as presented in the text of his statement, which came into my email box. Here is an important excerpt, word for word:

“The studies that were done on identical twins in Sweden showed that 34% – 39% were homosexual on account of nature and 66% were homosexual on account of nurture. Therefore, even in those studies, nurture was more significant than nature. Can somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is: “No”. No study has shown that. Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the Bill.”- President Museveni.

A little confusing, isn’t it? Well, feel free to go over it again and again before you proceed.

This reminds me of a story I was told, as a kid- and which I came to read about when I grew up- of a man that walked the earth almost 2000 years ago.  This man, the story goes, went from place to place, talking about peace and love and performing other wondrous acts like feeding the hungry, healing the sick and bringing the dead back to life. But that did not please some people, who did not like the following he was commanding. One day, an order was issued, upon fabricated indictments, and the man was arraigned before a judge by an irate mob. The judge listened to the charges and interrogated the man, but saw no wrong that the man had committed. It is also said that on that day, the judge was supposed to release one incarcerated man from prison. When the judge asked whether he should set the said man before him free, in the place of the hardcore criminal, the mob shouted,

“Crucify him,” they shouted, referring to the good gentleman. “Set the criminal free! Down with this man!”

Overwhelmed by the noise of the mob, the judge, much respected for his judicious consideration of issues, capitulated, thus granting their wish. He had yielded to mob demands and sacrificed a good man for a criminal instead.

And so it came to pass, more than 2000 years later, that when a well-respected head of state that commands immense respect among his peers was asked whether he would set the gay minority free and create space in the prisons for the corrupt public officials, the mob shouted, “Lock them all away. Let’s stay with our corrupt. We will give you another term in office.”

Tantalized by the smell of another term in office from afar, he smiled, rubbed his palms in anticipation, and declared a big, unprecedented state spectacle, to be broadcast live on television across the country. It wasn’t too hard to imagine what this was all about. And when all the cameras and recorders were rolling, he declared, as the world watched, “studies in Sweden showed 34%- 39% of homosexuality in identical twins was by nature, but since that is a minority, it means no one can be homosexual by nature! I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks with their human rights things. I will lock the gay people away! It’s what my people want.”

Disclaimer: the quotations in the anecdote above are not a verbatim representation of what is found in any book you might be familiar with. For the quotes attributed to the said head of state, only the first quoted excerpt is a verbatim representation of his statement.

Interested in knowing why the ordinary folks support the new law, I posted this on my Facebook Timeline:

“State one reason why you support the new ‪#‎Antigay Act or why you don’t support it. I’ll include your views in my blog- put only your own, best-reasoned views forward, not what you have been told. Please, keep your posts free of hate expressions and F words. If you can’t resist the temptation to drop the F word or expressions of hate, don’t post”

Here’s a sample of the responses:

  • Chris Higenyi Do you mind gauging our intellect on something else. We are insulted enough that the West wants us to be “reasonable”
  • Kennedy Makmot I totally dont support the anti gay law as passed. I believe no body has the right to police what 2adults do in their bed room. Two with this law, we are becoming a mob, three it affects me directly when i dont report homosexuals im definately heading …See More
  • Karungi Daphne I do not support the #AntiGay Act because gays have human rights too and i feel as long as they do not solicit sex from underage children and it is consenting then it is their right.We should not shove our beliefs down a minority throat just because we are scared of something different from our mental confines.
  • Joshua Mmali Chris Higenyi, unfortunately, this is the issue I put forth, and you don’t have to like it. My being in the West doesn’t make me a part of the West. Secondly, I’m not gauging your intellect, I’m only asking you to state a well-reasoned point in support of your prejudice (at least judging from your posts). Lastly, human rights are not a Western thing- I don’t know how so difficult that is to understand.
  • Chris Higenyi “Well-reasoned” is effectively setting standards. Whose standards?

Joshua Mmali Mine, Chris Higenyi. Don’t you find it tiresome to engage in debate with people who pursue lines of argument that do not reflect independent, informed thinking? The beauty of setting standards on this is that I’ll get the best views, because before anyone posts, they’ll endeavour to think  … so yeah, bring your best views on.

Chris Higenyi A man whose prejudices insofar as homosexuality is concerned has set standards,LOL. So Mr. Mmali, i’m pleased that it has been signed into law because it will protect my a son. At least i mind being reasonable to him not you. Allow me let you get down to work. You know too well which side of your bread is buttered.

Mish NseReko Is our security guaranteed when we express our views?

Joshua Mmali Oh Chris Higenyi, come on, bro. You can do better than make a personal attack when called upon to reason. Your very erudite expression of views does seem to contradict what you just posted. Luckily, today I’m off, so I don’t have to worry about earning…See More

Nsereko Simon Peter Rock The West….the West, there to destroy!! Kozi is polygamy legal in Europe and America!? Why legislate about people’s desire to hv as many partners as thy want, it’s their right. Arizona lawmakers hv recently passed an anti-gay bill, eehh I hv just remembered the state of Arizona is actually in Uganda.

Joshua Mmali Mish NseReko, I don’t know security from whom, but guess your security is guaranteed on my wall. hehehe

Joshua Mmali Nsereko Simon Peter Rock, you would have to understand the context of making bigamy(or polygamy) illegal before you start defending it. But that would take us so many years back in history. Do you have another reason- in response to the question I posed?

McMot McMot Matthew I dont know what is in that bill but I wonder which rights have been trampled over considering i heard the president say if they do their thing in the bedroom no one will come looking for them. In Uganda the gays live in fear and it is comfortable for…See More

Giovanni Pamba Joshua Mmali, if M7 just signed that bill to spite the west!!!… then it is a really sad situation….he did not need to have consulted anyone or set up any committees in the first place…it was a waste of tax payers money, the west’s position on the subject has been the same even before this bill came to parliament…

Chris Higenyi My apologies for the personal attack Mr. Mmali, it’s not my disposition. As for my son,don’t make me keep him away from his “liberal” Uncle just in case he is made to appreciate being gay. *nopunintended*.

Charles Orwoth Americans are following Uganda’s example already i can see: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/21/us/arizona-anti-gay-bill/

Wapakhabulo Wonyanyanbulo Comrades…..our Bududa boy Joshua Mmali is not gay… He is just a human rights activists… someone who loves humanity

Joshua Mmali Apology accepted, Chris Higenyi. Your unintended pun is indeed funny- it made me chuckle

29 minutes ago · Like · 2

These comments, though not fully representative, can tell you a thing or two about why people look at homosexuality in Uganda the way they do. If there is anything that has been learnt, it is the prejudice with which they approach it. For some, instead of submitting well-reasoned responses, it was easier to attack me, portraying something that is very disturbing: that either some people don’t like to be intellectually challenged on their long-held beliefs, or they are afraid to think for themselves.

The president’s signing of the bill was largely informed by the skewed conclusions from a report by a group of scientists (medical experts and experts in psychology) whom he had commissioned to enlighten him about the scientific basis for homosexuality. The subject of that report has been extensively tackled by scientists, including Professor Ogenga Latigo, a former Member of (the 8th) Parliament who, writing before the bill was signed into law, said he has been silent because of “President Museveni’s initial bold and objective stand on the bill, and his demand for scientific justification.”

He goes on to write:

“By taking the science path, one expected the president to invite scientific arguments both for and against the bill. Regrettably, in spite of a brilliant article by the much respected lawyer, Peter Muliira, on the lack of scientific, legal and real bases for enacting this law (See: Homosexuality is regarded as a genetical condition, Daily Monitor, January 28) and in spite of facts and caution by many, the president has now agreed to sign the bill into law, based on the biased views of Drs. Kenneth Omona, Chris Byaromunsi and others, all NRM legislators.

Deeply concerned by the gross misrepresentation of the science of homosexuality by these medical doctors and about key issues that we have not considered, and given that President Museveni may not have signed the bill into law yet, I am compelled to make this last ditch appeal to the president to return the bill to Parliament for reconsideration.”

You can read the full article here: http://www.observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=30308&catid=37&Itemid=66

And so now, the Act has received widespread condemnation, including from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who denounced the law saying

“Disapproval of homosexuality by some can never justify violating the fundamental human rights of others,” Pillay said. “This law will institutionalise discrimination and is likely to encourage harassment and violence against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. It is formulated so broadly that it may lead to abuse of power and accusations against anyone, not just LGBT people.”

Pillay stressed that Uganda is obliged, both by its own constitution and by international law, to respect the rights of all individuals and to protect them from discrimination and violence.

“This law violates a host of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, freedom of association, peaceful assembly, opinion and expression and equality before the law – all of which are enshrined in Uganda’s own constitution and in the international treaties it has ratified,” Pillay said.

And other organisations that are concerned about the issue of human rights, like Human Rights Watch who in their statement said:

President Museveni’s signing of the Anti-Homosexuality bill into law is a deeply worrying infringement on the human rights of all Ugandans. The law, signed by Museveni in Kampala on February 24, 2014, increases penalties for some forms of consensual same-sex conduct between adults; curtails constitutionally protected rights to privacy, family life, and equality; and violates internationally protected rights to freedom of association and expression.

“President Museveni has dealt a dramatic blow to freedom of expression and association in Uganda by signing the Anti-Homosexuality bill,” said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher. “Attacking basic rights and criminalizing the expression of divergent views doesn’t bode well for anyone. This is yet another troubling sign of disregard for fundamental human rights in Uganda.”

See full report: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/02/24/uganda-law-rolls-back-basic-rights

One last thing, though: Some people are quick to cite what members of the House of Representatives in Arizona have done, by passing a discriminatory law, which is hurting gay people in their rights campaign. See below


I would say this: two wrongs = two wrongs. One does not justify the commission of the other.



Well, I have no conclusion; I would rather let you draw your own conclusions from this:

“The studies that were done on identical twins in Sweden showed that 34% – 39% were homosexual on account of nature and 66% were homosexual on account of nurture. Therefore, even in those studies, nurture was more significant than natureCan somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is: “No”No study has shown that. Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the Bill.”- President Museveni.

An Elegy to a Big Man

An Elegy to a Big Man


A big man, a big man, a big man

A big heart, a big mind, a big smile

A big man, on a big stage, a big dance


You lit up the world stage with

Your big smile

You nourished our heads with

Your big mind

You played your part and lifted all with

Your big dance

You left the stage with all still

In big want


A big man, a big man, a big man

A big heart, a big mind, a big smile

A big man, a big stage, a big dance


A big exit, a big loss, a big void ~ JM

Warning: if he can get them to eat grass, he could have them all dead soon

I have been reading an astonishing story in African Spotlight about a South African pastor making members of his congregation eat grass and, on other occasions, stepping on them.

A woman eats grass in South Africa. Photo Courtesy: African Spotlight

A woman eats grass in South Africa. Photo Courtesy: African Spotlight

It is a staggering account of religious submissiveness gone to unfathomable levels of, for lack of a better word, stupidity. How one man, acting alone or in collusion with similar-minded individuals, can get a large congregation of adults- with fully developed mental faculties, I suppose- to perform such degrading herbivorous acts as eating grass, is something that only the field of Psychology can explain with a relative degree of precision. Since my grasp of human psychology is no where near that of Sigmund Freud or B.F. Skinner, I will limit my commentary on the implications of such acts in the context of what I have read or observed, and my own fears which, I can say, are not entirely unfounded.

Believers eat grass: Photo by African Spotlight

Believers eat grass: Photo by African Spotlight

The same man, the story goes, steps on the prostrating members of his congregation.

Pastor steps on believers. Photo courtesy of African Spotligh

Pastor steps on believers. Photo courtesy of African Spotligh

Rewind the clock to March 17, 2000, when some 1000 unsuspecting villagers, in the western Ugandan district of Kanungu, found themselves huddled up like sheep in a securely locked church before their quack prophet, Joseph Kibwetere, set the edifice ablaze. It was a story that shocked the world at the turn of the new Millennium as eyes were, once again, riveted upon Uganda, which was already in the news for mass atrocities committed in the then raging LRA war in the north and the plunder of wealth in eastern Democratic People’s Republic of Congo (DRC) by the military and top government officials.


However, that horrendous story did not begin on the 17th of March. It had been developing; with Kibwetere and his accomplices like Credonia Mwerinde asking people to sell all their earthly possessions and take the money to church, in anticipation of an apocalyptic end in the year 2000. They did. They held a big feast and said their goodbyes to friends and neighbours, as they sang and prayed in anticipation of the D-Day. With his Movement for the Restoration of the 10 Commandments, Mr. Kibwetere had mentally ensnared his followers who just did as he commanded because, in their limited understanding of the world outside their village and pious minds, he was a man who talked to God and heard conversations between Jesus and the Virgin Mary. They were an easy catch.

Before Kibwetere, there had been other deaths, premised on cult followings of astounding degrees of folly. In 1978, a man named Jim Jones had done a similar thing, when he manipulated over 900 members of The People’s Temple to move to Guyana in South America, where all but a few would meet their demise in a ghastly episode of suicide and murder, in what came to be called the Jonestown massacre. Some, I have read, did take the lethal concoction out of fear of reproach from Mr. Jones, while the majority were fully convinced about what they were doing and would not be stopped.

There have been other bizarre accounts, including that in Tanzania in 2008, when some 50 members of Waadventista Wasabato Masalia (roughly translated as Remnants of the Seventh Day Adventists) packed their wares and, with no passports, air-tickets or visas, walked to the Julius Nyerere International Airport, ready to miraculously be flown to Europe on a preaching mission. Their Bibles, they believed, were their ticket to any place, including heaven.

Members of Tanzania's Sabato Masalia walking to the airport. Photo courtesy of charaz.blogspot.com

Members of Tanzania’s Sabato Masalia walking to the airport. Photo courtesy of charaz.blogspot.com

I could cite other examples of such disturbing occurrences, but I hope that, for illustrative purposes, these will suffice. That the church in South Africa can do this now is both shocking and frightening, yet this is not an isolated example of people using religion to manipulate others or extort money from unsuspecting believers. For purposes of comparison, it could be argued that Pastor Daniel Lesego of South Africa’s Raboni Centre Ministries is a man that falls in the nomenclature of Kibwetere, Jones and the head of the Tanzanian denomination. The way these men, in their very unscrupulous ways, get people to act this way- as if by a spell- and no one acts until it is too late, is what is even more baffling. The lack of preventive action could, understandably, be a result of states not wanting to interfere in the way people worship, as a part of guaranteeing freedom of worship. It could also be out of fear of a political backlash, in the case of elected leaders, who may prefer to look to the next election with more urgency than to an impending doomsday for a few hundred individuals drunk on religious belief.

Believers eat grass. Photo court. African Spotlight

Believers eat grass. Photo court. African Spotlight

Karl Marx did say, in the context of the oppressed seeking some solace in it, religion is the opium of the masses. Taken literally and used in this context, one could say that religion, for the followers of such cults, has become a kind of drug that gets people drunk and hallucinating about heaven and such other imaginary things, while leaving them extremely vulnerable to abuse and extermination by self-seeking, heartless individuals. You may want to watch this incredible video of the same pastor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QCnhg_gEDjI

An Ode to an Ugly Year (2013)


Your galloping arrival was anticipated,

As would a normal year

With ululation and jubilation

And choreographed sparklers

We let you in, embracing you

Just like a normal year

With hope and customary pledges

We spread messages of joy

As we hopped and skipped

Nourished by liquids frosty, sweet and sour

Armed with our contrived gusto,

You let us saunter into your lulling arms

Before you set on us your madness in March

Mixing a truce for Congo with killer chemicals in Syria!

In you the Filipinos saw a binomial fiend


Like the legendary Armageddon,

Smothered souls and fields

Tumultuous you chose to be

Wearing your ugly grimace

You visited pain on the man that sired me

By harvesting his peers and two siblings!

To further nourish your insatiable proclivity,

You set your agent upon my best friend’s mum

And took with you our beloved Madiba!

As you exited

You dashed back for yet another friend’s mum

To increase your irrational count

Of a marauding slayer you had become

Out, out hideous year!

2013 was such an ugly year

Make haste fourteen

A number too foul has this thirteen been!

Uganda Antigay Bill: Of prejudice, human rights and what’s right

When the dictatorship of the majority threatens the rights of the minority, it is time to emerge from the citadel of passive observation and stand with the minority. For many years, white supremacists believed that people of a darker skin complexion were not quite human, and there was no way they would have equal rights with them. It was unimaginable, for them, to think of black and right in the same sentence. For that very reason, slavery and slave trade- one of the most disgraceful acts of man- lasted more than four centuries, subjecting more than 15 million men, women and children to the horrendous experiences that characterised that man-made tragedy.

In their bigoted minds, the racial supremacists believed it was a kind of abomination for the whites to sit at the same table with black people. To them, it was against the will of God to have such equality of rights. That the majority of white people believed and practiced these despicable acts of discrimination did not make them right. In families on plantations, there were men, women and children who watched the violence being meted out on the African slaves with muted pain. They couldn’t dare to speak out against the slave masters, for in that same society, women faced subjugation from the male chauvinists who gave them a drubbing if they did as much as raise a finger against their cruelty on the slaves. A few white people, like Abraham Lincoln, refused to believe in this perversion of the truth upon which racial supremacy was premised, and when the moment came, they chose to be on the right side of history, and stood with the sons and daughters of the slaves in the push to abolish those acts.

The same can be said of the civil rights movement of later years, and apartheid. Today, memories of what made the whole world so fond of Nelson Mandela (with the exception of a few people, who have the right to not feel the same way the rest of us do about Nelson Mandela) are still fresh. Educated and employed, he did not choose to stay quiet in the comfort of his job and look on as the apartheid regime subjected black South Africans and other people of colour to deprivation and persecution. When he had the right moment, he spoke out for what was right. After 27 years in prison, Mandela was presented with an opportunity to exact revenge on his persecutors, but he didn’t! He chose, instead, to stand for what is right, and in doing so, shamed his jailers, giving them a lesson that has come to define his lasting legacy. He opposed white supremacy as he did black supremacy.

In a number of traditional African societies and other societies in other parts of the world, the birth of a girl child was, instead of being greeted with joy and ululation that is characteristic of African celebration, received with grief. The same happened with twins in some societies, who even suffered the cruelty of death because people believed, wrongly, that they were taboo babies. Someone did stand up against this, and the practice has been banished from the earth, at least as far as my knowledge can tell me.

For many years, growing up in rural Kenya and Uganda, I was made to understand that homosexuality was not quite regarded in the same way as heterosexuality, and people who were thought to be having same sex relations were frowned upon. People spoke about them in low voices, pointing fingers, but only went thus far. I later noticed the same thing when a boy and a girl started having a heterosexual relationship, or when a married man or woman had an affair out of their matrimonial precincts, which made me realise that where sexual relations were involved, people would always gossip. None of the men who were talked about these rural places had made any contact with the world outside the villages they lived in. To me, that invalidates the argument oft fronted by the proponents of the antigay bill that homosexuality is alien to Africa. In secondary school (a boys only school), we heard rumours of boys who had same sex relations, yet there was no internet then or the massive amount of pornographic material that we have today for them to learn this supposedly ‘alien’ practice from. But I came to believe, from hearing people talk against it, that homosexuality was a bad thing. At that time, I didn’t even know a law existed against it. As an adult, I came to hear a lot of negative talk about homosexuality, but didn’t hear anyone encouraging violence against people in homosexual relationships.

As a high school teacher, I saw young boys and girls exhibiting characteristics that we thought were, (if I may use this phrase, at the risk of being accused of generalisation), typical of what we noticed with many gay people. Once these kids were grown up and out of school, I would later learn that they, indeed, fell under the LGBT group and were not at all inclined to people of the opposite sex. No one had coerced or enticed them to become gay. That, to me, was enough proof that there are indeed people who are born gay, and the narrative that it is an entirely taught thing that can be unlearned gets invalidated by that experience with my students.

One of my best friends, whom I have known since I was a teenager, is gay. For many years, I believed he was straight, like me, until I started noticing that he was keeping company of gay people. As we sat out one day, drinking, his friends joined us, and later invited us to go with them to another place. Before we entered this new place, he called me aside and told me, in a whisper, “by the way, I just want to warn you that this place is dominated by a gay clientele. If you are uncomfortable with it, we can leave these guys and go to the pub next door.” I could see that my friend wanted to go into this place with his gay friends, yet he valued my friendship with him as well and respected my heterosexual orientation. I said, well, going into that pub isn’t going to make me gay, so I went in. Indeed I had a few disconcerting moments with gay guys making advances at me (colloquially expressed as ‘hitting on me’), but I categorically stated my sexual orientation, as my friend told them, sternly, I was straight and that they had to respect it and leave me alone. Later that night, as we went home in a shared taxicab, my friend asked me, “Josh, what do you think of me when you learn that I keep the company of these gay friends, and that today we went to this pub with many gay guys?” I told him I only thought of him as my friend, and whether I started harbouring suspicions that he was gay or not, it wouldn’t change how I viewed him. With the confidence emanating from that response, my friend opened up and told me he was bisexual, though sometimes he felt he was just outright gay, and that the inclination towards women was more to do with wanting to please his family than what he really was.

Without going into what else we discussed, that, together with what I had seen with boys in my secondary school and the students that I taught, changed my attitude completely. The only thing, I realised, that I had learned was my unfounded discomfort with gay people, which made me indifferent to their plight. There has been a law, from the colonial days, that criminalised homosexuality as ‘sexual acts against the order of nature,’ just as there is one against sex trade or what is commonly known as prostitution. However, I have not heard of a single person who has been successfully prosecuted for these acts. We could argue that the new bill, though prescribing harsher penalties like life imprisonment, does not criminalise homosexuality anew. What it does instead, I dread to predict, is incite a hitherto indifferent public into acts of hate and discrimination against the gay community.

I must make this clear: if any gay person commits sexual offences against minors, they must be treated the same way a straight person commits sexual offences against a minor, be it a boy or girl. The alleged recruitment of minors, which the supporters state as the reason for proposing this law, remains just that: an allegation. If there is evidence, that can be proven beyond reasonable doubt, I will be here again apologizing for that. What we must recognise, as a society, is that we can’t let personal prejudices infringe the rights of other people.

I have heard the proponents of the antigay bill say that gay people should not have rights. There is everything wrong with such declarations, as they are in direct violation of universal human rights declarations that Uganda has acceded to. Indeed today, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement to that effect, emphasising, “the provisions of this bill stand in clear violation of the rights to liberty, privacy, non-discrimination and freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association protected by the Constitution of Uganda, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Uganda has ratified, and by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Government has a legal obligation to prevent discrimination and cannot withhold basic rights from certain individuals because the majority disapproves of them. All people, including LGBT individuals, have the same human rights and are entitled to full protection by the State.”

 See http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46839&Cr=homosexual&Cr1=#.Ur3qftJDsfh

Simply put: the prejudices we hold against things we do not like should not make us believe that we are right. There can be no better right than the protection of human rights of all individuals, whether we like what they do (unless it harms others or deprives others of their rights) or not. We have to make a clear distinction between belief and reason, for quite often, one begins where the other stops. Reason, not belief, is what is requied when it comes to protection of human rights.

Will President Museveni sign the infamous Antigay Bill? Well, it doesn’t matter

I have been reading comments about the recently passed anti-gay bill- a second piece of legislation in the realms of sexuality in as many days- and quickly, the sheer degree of ignorance among those posting the comments comes to the fore. Because of that, I have chosen to use 20 minutes of my lunch break to write this, hoping to both educate (performing my duties under Part 29 of the Preamble?) and to challenge Ugandans to read the Constitution.

The argument, on Social Media at least, has been on whether President Museveni, the bearer of the Executive prerogative to assent to bills passed by parliament before they become law, will indeed assent to the said anti-gay bill or not. Here is the news (maybe not news anymore, since this has been around for nearly two decades now): he doesn’t have to sign the bill to make it an Act of Parliament or law, because Parliament has the legislative powers, stated at least thrice in the Constitution, to make it law with or without a presidential assent.

Without going into the merits of the act, I would suggest that those squandering precious time debating that would rather go and read Article 91 in Chapter 6 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. Nay, I will make your job even easier and copy and paste excerpts from the Constitution here:

(2) A bill passed by Parliament shall, as soon as possible, be presented to the President for assent.

(3) The President shall, within thirty days after a bill is presented to him or her-

(a) assent to the bill;

(b) return the bill to Parliament with a request that the bill or a particular provision of it be reconsidered by Parliament; or

(c) notify the Speaker in writing that he or she refuses to assent to the bill.

(4) Where a bill has been returned to Parliament under clause (3) (b) of this article and the bill is passed for the third time, with the support of at least two-thirds of all members of Parliament, the Speaker shall cause a copy of the bill to be laid before Parliament, and the bill shall become law without the assent of the President.

(6) Where the President-

(a) refuses to assent to a bill under clause (3)(c) of this article, Parliament may reconsider the bill and if passed, the bill shall be presented to the President for assent;

(b) refuses to assent to a bill which has been reconsidered and passed under paragraph (a) or clause (4) of this article, the of this article, the Speaker shall, upon the refusal, if the bill was so passed with the support of at least two-thirds of all members of Parliament, cause a copy of the bill to be laid before Parliament, and the

bill shall become law without the assent of the President.

(7) Where the President fails to do any of the acts specified in

clause (3) of this article within the period prescribed in that clause, the

President shall be taken to have assented to the bill and at the expiration

Of that period, the Speaker shall cause a copy of the bill to be laid before

Parliament and the bill shall become law without the assent of the


My advice to gay rights campaigners: do not waste time petitioning Mr. Museveni against signing the bill. Instead, go back to the drawing board and see what else you can do, to ensure your fundamental rights are protected. My guess is that, like in the past, it will still be hard for the government to successfully prosecute anyone, because it is just nearly impossible for them to adduce reliable evidence of guilt in courts of law. The starting point is to avoid being arrested, because, like it has been with opposition politicians, the arbitrary arrest and detention stage by the police is where rights are most abused in Uganda. Courts, with the exception of a few really politicized and corrupt judges, tend to be more sane and protective of human rights.

In the same respect, I have heard some people wondering whether Ugandans can have dual citizenship or not, because there has never been news of President Museveni assenting to the Act of Parliament that was passed in May 2009. I say, get the forms and get the applications going, because the Constitution does allow for dual citizenship, because Chapter 3 Article 15 of the 1995 Constitution, as amended, allows you to, contrary to what you may read in places like this from the Uganda Legal Information Institute guys, who have either gone to sleep, or abandoned their website altogether.